Tag Archives: stewardship

You don’t have to pay for me

As the ushers passed the offering plate, a young child being taken to church for the first time watched the proceedings with intense interest. As the ushers approached her pew, the little girl said to her father, “Remember, Dad, you don’t have to pay for me. I’m under five.”

I’m at that age now when I look for discounts. I may not like standing in line behind someone with a fistful of coupons, but I seldom go to the store without checking to see if I have any. Who doesn’t like a bargain? I don’t want to think of myself as cheap, but I don’t mind being frugal.

While I don’t equate cheap with frugal, there is one thing that bothers me – church on the cheap. There are some chilling words in the last book of the Old Testament. Through His prophet Malachi, God had a case against His own people: “The Lord of Heaven’s Armies says to the priests: ‘A son honors his father, and a servant respects his master. If I am your father and master, where is the honor and respect I deserve? You have shown contempt for My name!’” Later in the book, God also had stern words for the people: “You have wearied the Lord with your words.” God wasn’t satisfied with cheap.

We know our God is generous and gracious, bountiful in His blessings. We also know that the proper response to His goodness to us is not simply measured by an offering plate. We have too long associated stewardship with our financial resources alone. The One who owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10) isn’t wringing His hands over what we give. He knows there is much more at stake.

Does my life reflect a grateful, joyful stewardship? Am I looking for spiritual discounts or going deeper in my walk with Him? Malachi’s narrative is a bridge to the New Testament. The prophet Elijah in the person of John the Baptist would come to prepare the way for the Lamb of God. God was preparing to invade a broken, dark world with the light of Christ. He has given so much. How will we respond to His overture of love?

From the creation of the first humans, God offered a partnership to those He entrusted with His world. He has made us trustees of our time, talent, and treasure. There is great joy in faithful stewardship!

Givers and Takers

I have to admit I don’t remember being on the cradle roll. I actually started going to church before I was born in Tampa, Florida. I don’t remember much about the early days of my new church here in Atlanta. I remember Mrs. McClelland and Mrs. Webb. They worked in the nursery for at least 100 years. I remember sitting in Mrs. Webb’s lap, the most comfortable place in the world. I remember learning how to read music and play handbells as I was growing up. My minister of music (music director in those days) now lives at Lenbrook with his wife. Whenever I see him, I remember how he encouraged me to love music. I remember Sunday School teachers and RA leaders and a man named Bobby Ward who led the activities ministry and taught me the fundamentals of basketball.

I remember the difficult transition to yet another new church in 1966. As a teenager, leaving the familiar behind was hard. I made new friends in a youth group who made room for me. I remember singing in the first youth musical. I remember youth camps where I first realized God was calling me to ministry. I remember my first church job, an opportunity to serve and coach and teach. I remember a church that blessed me and started me on my way to the pursuit of theological education.

Why should you care what I remember? I’m not done. I remember a church that loved my parents and allowed them to love them back. I remember how church members tended to my parents as life became difficult with tough health issues. I remember a church that ministered to my family when they each exited this world for the next.

Here’s my point. At all the pivotal moments of my life, the church showed up. I took a lot of things from those experiences because I was given so much. There have been many times when the church gave to me.

I know the Church and the church have taken some hits lately. I know our church is struggling as life has become difficult with tough issues. I also know that this is not the time to back away or desert her. She needs us now more than ever. I have taken a lot from the church in my 65 years. I want to give to see her continue to show up when people need her.

My family and I have been blessed by the generosity and grace of many faithful stewards. This Sunday morning, Kim and I will be privileged to return our pledge to tithe and to make offerings during the coming year. I invite you to joyfully join me in blessing the church.

I have never given to a budget. I have given to express my gratitude for blessings received and to show determination to support the ministry of God’s people. We have work to do for the Kingdom’s sake. Our time, talent, and treasure become the measurements of devoted followers of Christ who understand the sacred trust God has bestowed.

I am a cheerful giver because I have been given so much!

86,400

The story of “The Magic Bank Account” has been around for years. Think about it:

“Imagine that you won a contest that awarded you $86,400, deposited in your bank every morning. You had to follow the rules to keep the money.

  1. If you don’t spend it, you lose it.
  2. You cannot transfer the money to another account.
  3. You may only spend it.
  4. Next day, another $86,400 is deposited.
  5. The bank can end the game without warning.

What would you do with all that money? Would you spend it on yourself … give it away … take care of people you love? Would you spend it all, knowing another deposit happens the next day?”

The story continues: “Actually the game is real. Every person wins the prize. The prize is time.”

  1. Each morning we awaken to receive 86,400 seconds as gift of life.
  2. When the day is over, we don’t get that time back.
  3. What we haven’t used up is gone forever.
  4. You make decisions about how you spend your gift.
  5. Each morning the account is refilled, but the game can be over without warning.

Jesus gave us a formula for making the most of the gift: “Your heavenly Father already knows your needs, and He will give you what you need from day to day if you live for Him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern” (Matthew 6:32,33).

Time is precious. Handle with care!

The Measure of Wealth

Late in his life, Paul wrote two letters to his protégé, Timothy. While much of the content of these personal letters addressed Timothy’s leadership challenges, Paul could have been writing an op-ed for the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. He gave an accurate assessment of human nature and the inevitable outcomes of misplaced priorities.

In his first letter, he urged his son in the faith: “Tell those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which will soon be gone. But their trust should be in the living God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17).

Isn’t it ironic that those who really want to be wealthy are some of the most miserable people on earth? Many spent most of their careers climbing the corporate ladder only to find that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall. John D. Rockefeller once said, “The poorest man in the world is he who only has money. The only question with wealth is, what do you do with it?”

Paul had the answer: “Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and should give generously to those in need, always being ready to share with others whatever God has given them” (1 Timothy 6:18).

What do with your wealth? Most of us might respond: “What wealth?” I have not known many truly rich people in my life, but I’ve known a number of wealthy people … people who trust God “who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.”

Jesus told us to invest in the eternal: “Store your treasures in heaven … wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will also be” (Matthew 6:19-21). What do you think He meant? I don’t think He meant to be so heavenly minded that we are not any earthly good. I believe we make investments of our time, talent, and treasure every day. We are good stewards, knowing that the Owner of all things deserves and demands an accounting. We give of ourselves and our means out of joy and gratitude. We are blessed – a privilege bound to a responsibility that promises an abundant life!

 

Father’s Day

Did it start in Grafton, West Virginia in 1908 or Spokane, Washington in 1910? Was it inspired by Anna Jarvis’ crusade to honor mothers or dedicated to celebrate Civil War vet William Jackson Stuart’s noble efforts to raise his six children as a single parent? You can find those who will suggest other origins. Does it really matter? The third Sunday in June was set aside to recognize the role of fathers. It took a while to catch on and some will say it never has.

In popular culture, it seems that a typical image of dad is the stumbling, bumbling, comic figure who is never quite on top of things. Fathers can be easy targets. Even in the 50’s sit com, Father Knows Best, Robert Young’s father figure need plenty of help solving the family problems in less than 30 minutes each week.

Parenting today is far from easy. With the pace of life, economic pressures, complexities of changing schedules, families have a difficult time finding respite, much less balance. One little boy was asked what he would give his dad for Father’s Day. He responded, “I would give him his very own bike … and the time to ride it.” Or this youngster who said his Father’s Day gift for dad would be a new watch “so he wouldn’t come home so late.”

Being a dad, being a parent is a sacred stewardship. None of us get it right all the time, but there are things we have to remember, priorities we have to live by. On my desk is the picture of a solitary boy standing on the beach, gazing over the water. Underneath the picture are these words: “A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove … but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.”

It’s about time

Rick Warren, in his book, “The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth am I here for?” wrote:

“Time is your most precious gift because you only have a set amount of it. You can make more money, but you can’t make more time. When you give someone your time, you are giving them a portion of your life that you’ll never get back. Your time is your life. That is why the greatest gift you can give someone is your time. It is not enough to just say relationships are important; we must prove it by investing time in them. Words alone are worthless. Relationships take time and effort, and the best way to spell love is T-I-M-E.”

We’ve all said once or many times: “Where does the time go?” The answer might be wherever we spend it. There are so many demands on our time but we still make choices every day about how we will spend our 24 hours. An entire industry of time management consultants, gurus, and experts has blossomed because so many of us need help making the best, the most profitable, the most productive, and the most meaningful use of our time.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told those who would follow Him that our time was first and best managed by trust. The writer of Proverbs echoed that in chapter 3: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths” (vv. 5,6).

On my wall, is a reminder to honor the time we have:

“Take time to work, it is the price of success;

Play, it is the secret of perpetual youthfulness;

Think, it is the source of power;

Read, it is the fountain of wisdom;

Pray, it is conversation with God;

Laugh, it is the music of the soul;

Listen, it is the pathway to understanding;

Dream, it is hitching your wagon to a star;

Worship, it is the highway of reverence;

Love and Be Loved, it is the gift of God.”

Joy

My friend Don invited me to accompany him and his son on a mission trip to Ghana thirteen years ago. While we were in country, we visited schools, churches, and prisons. We were hosted by a remarkable man, James Baidoo, whose passion for Christ and for His church was incredibly inspiring. While pastoring his church, he was mentoring young leaders and planting new churches. His access to high government officials opened doors for us to share the Gospel in a variety of settings.

We went to several prisons where I preached in conditions that would make American prisons look like plush resorts. On one of those occasions, we were standing in an open courtyard. Above us in a cell block, a group of Muslims were shouting, trying to drown out our worship service. Everywhere we went, there was a hunger for the hope of the Gospel.

We attended several worship services with James and his people. Listening to some of his prize students in Bible study and worship, we realized that God’s work was being done with skill and devotion. Speaking to those congregations through an interpreter was both challenging and rewarding. The people were engaged and vocal as they heard God’s Word. There were times when I was pretty certain that the interpreter was preaching a better sermon than I was!

There were many lasting impressions from our time in Ghana. James, in humility and joy, let us see his handiwork among students his churches sponsored; in prison ministry where he developed teachers, leaders, and counselors; and in churches where he mentored those who were discipling new  believers and leading new congregations.

As encouraging as these scenarios were to each of us, our best shared moments occurred when these Christians in Ghana gave their offerings. I can only describe it as a demonstration of joy. Several offerings were taken in each service. There were different purpose for each. There were no wealthy people present; many had little to give … but they gave. Plates were not passed. People didn’t walk forward to put their gifts in a receptacle. No, they danced to the altar, singing and laughing.

Everybody participated, including the three Americans. I have video of those moments. I will be glad to share that with you for a fee.

It was such an honor to be among such people. We were humbled by their hospitality and their dedication. We learned a great deal from a gifted leader and a joyous people.

All of that experience flooded back to me this week. I want that joy in my life and in yours. We probably won’t be instituting an offering dance any time soon, but we need to exhibit more joy in our worship and certainly in our giving.

Most of you understand that our ministry budget calls for weekly income just above $30,000. The last four Sundays our offerings have totaled: 8/31 – $9,949; 9/7 – $21,369; 9/14 – $19,584; and 9/21 – $10,215. You don’t need a major in math to know we cannot continue like this. No, we won’t be dancing to the front this week, but inserting some joy and dedication could really help